Date: February 5, 2016
Location: Bonstra Haresign Architects, 1728 Fourteenth Street, NW #300, Washington, DC 20009
Time: 12:00 pm – 5:00pm
Led by: Clair Wholean, AIA, LEED GA | Smithgroup, JJR & Eric Teran, RA, NCARB, LEED AP BD+C | Shalom Baranes Associates
The art of rain making requires a multitude of skills including marketing, business development, proposal writing, and most importantly, building and maintaining meaningful relationships. Session #5 was organized by Clair Wholean and Eric Teran. The session was held at the office of Bonstra Haresign Architects.
The session revolved around a group activity that was organized and largely completed before the actual session. Scholars were divided into four groups of four and each was given a fake architectural firm to represent while responding to an imaginary request for proposals. At the session each ‘firm’ had an interview in front of a jury to further outline why they believed that their team should be selected. The session concluded with a discussion about what the jury noted in the winning firm, the losing firms, and overall what they observed during the whole process.
Preceding the interviews was a series of presentation that helped to guide and inform the interview process. The session began with a series of four presentations focusing on marketing, business development, the value of an architect, and the RFP process.
The first speaker, Sylvia Montgomery, a Senior Partner at Hinge, began by defining marketing and explaining that it is not about taking an action or asking someone to buy or do something, it’s about getting to know people so well that your products or services are something that they can’t live without. The biggest emphasis was on understanding your differentiator and being able to succinctly define your elevator pitch as a clear, easy to understand message, that explains what sets you apart from your competitors.
Following Ms. Montgomery, Rita Yurow, a Business Development leader at DLRGroup | Sorg, discussed the art of business development, explaining that client satisfaction equals client retention. She emphasized that although each employee or staff person might not be ‘in’ marketing or ‘in’ business development that everyone in a service-based industry is a part of the marketing effort.
Next, Amy Cuddy, the Marketing and Business Development Manager for the Washington DC Office of Ayers Saint Gross, spoke about the value that an architect has in marketing and business development. She explained that an architect has the ability to bring knowledge and experiences from previous projects to help in the marketing effort. Those previous experiences demonstrate value by being specific and fact-filled. Ms. Cuddy had the scholars complete a group exercise called ‘Developing a Value Statement’ where pairs of two were asked to develop statements that clearly state how or why their services were different or unique from others.
Lastly, Susan Merrigan, a marketing and business development professional at Perkins + Will, outlined the RFP process, focusing most specifically on preparing the proposal and the interview process. She emphasized that efforts need to be client focused and not focused on the architect. She discussed that the proposal preparation process and cost needed to be equivalent to the size and scope of the work that was being sought after, unless the project was being pursued for additional reasons such as marketing ability, design opportunity, portfolio building, or to submit for a specific award. She gave advice on interview preparation and process which included developing a strategy for the presentation, having a dress rehearsal, defining the agenda, having the right visual airs, determining the message, and anticipating questions that may be asked during the interview.After the speakers finished presenting the scholars assembled into their pre-assigned ‘firms’ to prepare for their ‘interview’ based on the information they learned during the speaker sessions. Each group then went into a private room for the interview and was given 5 minutes to present which was followed by 3 minutes of questions from the jury. Once all the interviews were complete the whole group reassembled to discuss which firm won the RFP and why, outlining the successes and areas of improvement for all the firms.
The lesson that was emphasized and re-emphasized throughout the day was that rain making is all about connecting with the client – bottom line.